Ephesians Session 1-
An Overview 

To Listen to Keiths teaching you can click here or below
It is also possible to view the powerpoint he used by clicking here


Ephesians is different from some of Paul’s other letters in the New Testament.  Several letters, like those to the Corinthians are clearly responses to Paul’s experiences in the city and/or letters he has received from the church, and so the letter is set out to address the issue(s).  We do not have this in Ephesians.
However, it is important that we develop some way of understanding what this letter was intended to communicate to its original recipients, so that we can then apply the lessons learned from the word in our own lives.

What I want to do today is to set out some of the context to the letter to the Ephesians, and then to give some general application of this context into our lives in 21st Century England.


Ephesus

Ephesus was considered to be a gateway city: the major trade/transport routes from the Roman province of Asia or Asia Minor to the rest of the Empire and vice versa went through Ephesus.  Indeed, Ephesus was considered to be one of the commercial hubs of the Roman Empire.  This led Ephesus to a fusion culture of East-meets-West, with adoption of both ancient Eastern and Western thinking.
Ephesus was a seat of some considerable learning with the discovery in archaeology of schools (not for children, but as in schools of thought) and libraries of substantial size.
Ephesus had a substantial Jewish community in the 1st Century, with possibly 7 – 12% of the population (just estimates from some commentators).
Ephesus was a divided community in many ways:

  • Religion: various temples, a major Synagogue, and a clear focus on the cult of Artemis/Diana, including the central Temple of Diana which was considered one of the 7 wonders of the world
  • Wealth: there were evidently wealthy merchants; but there was also evidence of great poverty with people selling their children to the temples
  • Culture: Romans and Greeks brought the latest culture from the West; but there was also evidence of older eastern culture
  • Ethnic: people from Europe; Africa; Arabia; Israel and Asia were mixed together in the city

temple to Artemis
















Paul is writing to these people to help and support them to live out their Christian lives in the midst of this complex social and cultural context.
I wonder … do any of these issues ring a bell with us in the society we live in?  When we are out and about in town centres and supermarkets do we notice any of the divisions/complexity that Paul would have noticed in 1st Century Ephesus?

Let me put a few headings up and see if we have noticed them in the context of where we live, work, shop, etc…
  • Diversity of Religion

  • The Poverty Trap

  • Ethnic Diversity

  • Spirituality expressed in different ways

  • Cultural Diversity

  • Religious power exerted over people

  • Magic in evidence

  • Sexual immorality

  • Hero worship

The conclusion I draw from this is that we have a lot to learn from this letter to the Ephesians, because we face very similar challenges in our communities today, to those being faced by the Christians in Ephesus.
To introduce the series of Sunday teaching plus additional ways to go deeper, I want just to hint at some of the major themes of Paul’s teachings in Ephesians that I see as linked closely to the context and therefore are also important to us today.  This is deliberately not in any depth as week-by-week over the next few weeks we will unpack what Paul writes in more detail.
  1. Paul explores what it means to be “in Christ” because he knows that only by being certain of what it means to be in Christ can we express the life of Christ out into the community that surrounds us
  2. Paul writes about the power of the Holy Spirit available to Christians
  3. Paul explores the nature of the conflict that Christians face – especially that it is spiritual rather than physical
  4. Paul explores the diverse role of prayer, especially in being equipped to be a Christian in a challenging context
  5. Paul explores Christian Behaviour so that we know clearly what it means to express Christianity through our daily lives, so that Christianity is not another religion, but a changed life
  6. Paul explores how to be a Christian Community recognising that together we are better and more effective than if we are isolated and divided from one another
  7. Paul explores what it means to live a spirit-filled life, knowing that this will distinguish us from those vaguely exploring spirituality

 

Keith Brockbank, 26/04/2015